MAINE, USA — In a press release issued Friday afternoon, the Maine Department of Marine Resources issued an emergency ruling that closed scallop fishing in three Maine bays.
The Commissioner announced the closure of Cobscook, Whiting and Dennys Bays, all which fall within Zone 3.
According to the release, the DMR is concerned that continued harvesting in the are could damage the existing broodastock for some time.
"The Department is concerned that continued harvesting for the remainder of the 2019-2020 fishing season in these areas will impact the abundant sublegal scallop resource, as well as lower the existing scallop broodstock further, observed in the 2019 Fall Scallop survey that is essential to the ongoing recruitment, regrowth and recovery of the scallop resource that supports an annual fishery," according to the Commissioner in the release. "An immediate conservation closure is necessary to reduce the risk of unusual damage and imminent depletion of the scallop resource in these Zone 3 areas."
In an Associated Press article last summer, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association hoped regulations would allow fisherman to continue to make a living off the catch.
"The Gulf of Maine is a very delicate resource and you could very easily fish down that fishery of scallops very quickly," he said. "The hope is we can put some really good sustainable fisheries management in place to basically steward it going forward."
According to the Associated Press, American scallops were worth $532.9 million at the docks last year. That's the third-highest figure on record and more than $100 million higher than the 2014 total.
The scallop industry is thriving as a result of years of conservative management that has allowed the valuable shellfish to grow undisturbed, said Jimmy Wotton, a scalloper based out of Friendship, Maine.
"There's a lot of scallops out there, and we did really well in the northern Gulf of Maine," said Wotton, referring to a key fishing area off New England. "The market has been strong."